Husbands, Wives Are Worst Backseat Drivers, But Teens Keep Their Mouths Shut

June 3, 2013

There's nothing quite as wonderful as a backseat driver -- someone who always knows the fastest way to get from Point A to Point B, someone who can sense accidents before they happen, someone who's forever on the lookout for speeding motorists and errant shopping carts.

But perhaps that's just us. Believe it or not, many people find backseat drivers annoying. And to them, the worst offenders can often be the folks they care about most.

Back in February, asked 500 online visitors about their feelings toward backseat drivers. They wanted to know which sorts of people were the most annoying to ride with and what they did to make travel so vexing.

As it turns out, spouses were the worst offenders. That's not surprising, since married folks tend to spend more time in the car with their spouses than anyone else. But what is surprising is that women seem to be slightly more annoying than men.

On the whole, 40% of married men said that their wives were the most offensive backseat drivers, while 34% of women said the same about their husbands. (NB: It's possible that wives could've been holding back, just to be polite.)

Mothers and friends didn't fare so well, either. Roughly 17% of men said their friends were the most annoying to ride with, while 15% pointed a finger at their moms.

For women, the figures were reversed: 18% said mothers were the worst co-pilots, while 15% said friends earned the title.

Much, much further down the list came adult daughters (7%), adult sons (4%), and teenage daughters and sons (tied at 3%). Who knew?

What do these backseat drivers do to enrage the folks who are truly behind the wheel? By far, the most despised habit of backseat drivers is criticizing the driver's speed: 47% ranked that as their #1 complaint. Here are some of the runners-up:

  • Giving directions: 29%
  • Excessive talking: 19%
  • Pushing an imaginary brake pedal (just like mom used to do): 15%  
  • Changing the radio station or audio track: 10%
  • Chatting on the phone or texting: 7% 
  • Eating: 3%

Unfortunately, the summer road trip season is now upon us, which means that backseat driving could become an even bigger problem for the next several months. The survey's organizers offer a few ways to ease the pain during your vacation. Among the suggestions we find useful are:

  • Come to some agreement on music and radio stations before departing. At the very least, map out the rules of who's in charge. Personally, we believe that whoever is driving ought to have veto power, but suit yourselves.
  • Come to some agreement about how often and how long you'll stop along the way. If you can wait until you need to refill the gas tank, that's great, but families with kids, older passengers, pets, or folks with medical needs may need to pull over more often. Planning your breaks can keep you on-schedule and even-keeled.  
  • Use a GPS device (or if you're old-school, a paper map) to plot your route. Include itinerary items like pit stops, meals, and overnight stays whenever possible. 
Do you have a backseat driver in your life? How do you deal with him or her on a daily basis? What about on vacations? Share your thoughts and suggestions in the comments below.


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